Sometimes going through adversity can cause a team to crumble or sometimes it can bring them closer together. The latter has been the case for the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and much of their bullpen in the offseason and then seeing Manny Ramirez retire abruptly, the Rays are sitting atop the American League East and their success started the minute the distraction and poor play of Ramirez was removed from the roster.
One of the biggest reasons for the success of the team is the emergence of Matt Joyce. After being dealt to Tampa Bay, Joyce spent a few disappointing seasons before finally getting his opportunity this season. Joyce is making the most of it. Through all the changes, Joyce has been the most consistent hitter for the Rays, he has been one of the best hitters in the American League, and is leading the majors in batting average at .367. Whether or not it can continue is anybody’s guess, but the Rays are finally getting the kind of production from Matt Joyce they thought they would get when they traded for him and he is making everyone in St. Petersburg start to forget about Manny Ramirez and Carl Crawford.
Matt Joyce joined WXYT in Detroit with Stoney to talk about leading the league in batting average this year, whether or not they are surprised by the success they have had this season after Manny Ramirez’s retirement, how tough it was to deal with Manny Ramirez retiring, and whether or not he was surprised when the Tigers traded him.
Whether or not he thought he was capable of leading the league in hitting:
“(Laughing) I would’ve paid you a lot of money to say that. (Host: So what’s the difference?) I think there’s a lot of things that play into it. Getting more time to play and getting a chance to get in there every day and get comfortable and relaxed, being able to use the whole field, and knowing what pitches to lay off of and which pitches you can hit. I think everyone of those things plays into it and helps you be successful.”
On how surprised they are by their success this year after some of the losses they have had on the roster:
“It was funny because I think we surprise a lot of people being in the situation that we are in, but in spring training I think everyone was saying the same thing. We’re going to surprise some people but we’re certainly not going to surprise ourselves. We have a really young and talented team and when you have young guys that are talented and hungry to win it’s a dangerous combination. This last week we have been struggling a little bit and we just have to turn it around and get the momentum back going our way.”
How difficult it was to go through the Manny Ramirez retirement:
“I think at the time it was a little weird to be a part of and go through. I think when he did retire it kinda ended up helping us solidify our defense in the outfield with the fact that we added Sam Fuld to left field and we really saved Johnny’s legs. We’re able to help him out and throw him at DH. Sam brought a lot to the team. Being a great leadoff hitter, stealing bases, and he was tearing it up for a couple of weeks there. Manny ended up retiring and we didn’t really know what to expect but we kinda had to figure out how to win.”
Whether or not he was surprised when he was traded by the Tigers:
“I didn’t see that one coming. At the time when I heard it it was kinda one of those things where it was hard to swallow because you get so used to playing with the Tigers that you see yourself playing with them for years and years. You kinda step back and you’re like what did I do wrong or why didn’t they want to keep me around? I ended up being traded to a team where I grew up and it worked out best for me.”